Feeble Knees

Monday, December 20, 2004


We were only about an hour or so late getting to my family gathering yesterday. (Why do I always underestimate how long it actually takes to wrap Christmas presents?) Thankfully we didn't miss the best parts of the day. No, the best part wasn't when we handed out our last-minute gifts, nor was it when the several thousand dessert items were served. It was when we all got a chance to look back and remember how far we'd all come.

My dad has been an amateur photographer for as long as I can remember. Over the past fifty years he has dutifully photographed major and minor family events for posterity. On rainy days and rare vacation days he would carefully trim and paste photographs into these big huge three-ring binders. Often he would add in his own comments about a particular image. Over the years he's added volume after volume to this catalog of family history.

I grew up looking at pictures from the fifties and sixties - my parents' wedding, their first house, hotels and tourist attractions from all over the world captured during Dad's many business trips overseas, my brothers and sisters as infants and toddlers. I made my debut somewhere in the in the 1970-1972 album, and became a frequent subject in subsequent books, despite my best efforts to evade the camera lens. During the Eighties and Nineties, the tomes got thick with rich, memorable content: our high school and college graduations, the marriages of each of my siblings, and the births of their children; children who are now teens and young adults themselves. So much in so little time!

Watching my young niece play quietly with her brand-new toy pony, I asked her how she liked her horse riding lessons. She immediately perked up and chatted away in her small quiet voice. I felt bad, she seemed kind of disconnected from the older boys and adults. She had retreated into a quiet room to play alone with the horsey, so I tried to think of things to make conversation.

"Did you know that Papa rode a Camel once?"
"He did?" Her eyes widened with curiosity.
"Yes," I said. "Would you like to see a picture? We have a picture of Papa riding a camel."

And with that, the first of the photo albums came out. I told my Dad that his granddaughter wanted to see him on the camel. Well that just made his day. Proudly he retrieved the album and showed his granddaughter the photos from his trip to Egypt, nearly twenty years ago. There he sat, in is business attire on an feisty looking dromedary. My niece was duly impressed with her Papa after that.

This got the ball rolling. My oldest nephew's fiancee wanted to see baby pictures of my oldest nephew, so we got out the album that recorded the very day he was born. Soon all the boys were wanting to see their pictures too. Two of my nephews got to see pictures they'd never seen of their house being built. They also got to see pictures of happier times when their dad still lived with them. It was bittersweet. We saw photos of loved ones who'd passed on, old friends who remain loyal and true to this day, and the gradual march of time that's been changing us so subtly.

I was so happy for my dad, that he got to see the next generation enjoying the albums that he so carefully crafted. It was my favorite moment of the whole day, the whole week and it'll probably be the thing I remember the most about that day. For a few moments the younger generation sat together with their parents, aunts, and uncles and remembered the past with joy, thanks, and a little sense of wonder that we all made it this far together.

Heavenly Father, you remember so much more than we do, truly your thoughts are too great to comprehend. Thank you for your faithfulness to all of us, even when we were far from you and running hell-bent away from your presence and care. The evidence of your tender love for us is in all the faces of my family. We can look at each other and remember specific times and situations where it was only by your grace that we got through. You've sheltered us, provided for us, comforted us in times of great anguish and despair. You've healed our sick and dying, strengthened the weak among us provided treatments and medications and doctors to help us. Where could we begin to speak of all that you've done in our hearts? You've reconciled us to one another, humbled us, protected us and guided us through times fraught with danger and peril. In all these pictures, from the very beginnings of our family to the present day we see the evidence of your love in our lives.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
~Hebrews 12:2

This morning my heart is overwhelmed, thinking about Jesus. Because he counted it joy to die for us - not just for our redemption, but for the pleasure of giving us of himself, for the chance to impart all the good and perfect gifts of his enduring presence to us. I'm a bit humbled today to think of all the fretting and obsessing I did all last week about food and gifts. How many years have I been walking this earth now, and I still get knocked senseless by the holiday blitz?

It took a bunch of snapshots, revisiting the past, and remembering all the former things to bring things back into focus. Thank you Jesus, thank you for everything.

EDIT: change post time to Monday morning, not Sunday

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